The final session of English UK's Marketing Conference may be delivered by webinar, or at the organisation's annual conference, after a fire alarm forced an early end to the day.
A power cut at the central London conference venue had meant that Adrian Liley was already giving his closing plenary without lights, notes or Power Point. But less than ten minutes into his presentation, the fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated.
Huan Japes, deputy chief executive for English UK, took the decision not to ask the British Study Centre's Head of Sales to start all over again, and instead began the drinks reception slightly early, enabling delegates to enjoy stunning sunset views over Tower Bridge and the Shard.
"It was a real shame because it had been a brilliant day and everyone was enjoying Adrian's presentation," said Mr Japes. "He was doing a magnificent job without any of the things he might have expected, like lights, computer or use of the screens, and it was a perfect fit with his theme of anti-marketing, and doing things the wrong way.
"We're just contacting Adrian to find out whether he'd prefer to give his presentation as a webinar or at our annual conference in May, and we'll be letting our delegates know what's happening as soon as possible."
Delegates enjoyed an extraordinarily busy day with a mixture of plenaries and elective sessions covering a range of marketing issues, from techniques to market your business without a budget, the importance of ensuring marketing and sales are working properly together, and detailed sessions on using social media and market reports.
One of these covered Libya, with the UKTI's Angus Jackson advising his audience that there are many opportunities for UK businesses in the post-conflict nation where many contracts have still to be let.
"There is an incredible appetite for English Language training per se," he said, adding that the UKTI in Tripoli could help with its inside local knowledge of government departmental politics and other information.
"Get out there now, build relationships, work out who your local partners are going to be. Make sure you understand what procurement mechanism is in place," he said.
Mr Jackson said that whilst in his opinion Tripoli was now a "relatively normal" North African city, would-be travellers should take note of Foreign Office advice on the level of risk.
A different approach to a new market was given by the British Council's May Huang, whose presentation drilled into detail of China's 538million internet users and in particular its 274m users of local microblogging sites – who could be accessed by ELT marketers. "Every tweet should be meaningful, to encourage local Chinese students to have interest in your course or programmes.
"The key is reputation, relevant messages and dialogue and engagement with the local audience," she said.
Japan was another market covered during a specialist session, opened by Naomi Takegoshi, senior trade adviser at UKTI Tokyo who outlined potentially useful developments in the country's education system, including a likely move from a March to September start for local universities, leading to a "gap term" between those two months.
Seasoned ELT marketer Richard Day of English in Chester entertained a packed session with his tips on maintaining motivation. These included setting aside a little time each day to do something proactive rather than reactive, setting targets, which might be increasing the number of students from a particular country, thinking out of the box, building a team whose members have complementary skills and trying not to drown in paperwork.
He added: "Be big somewhere, because it's quite motivating. Variety is the spice of life, so build it into your job description. Get out more. Phone agents occasionally. Focus on the relationship with them.
"Embrace something new. Take your marketing staff out of their comfort zone – but only just. Don't be a dinosaur in digital marketing," he said.
Richard Richardson, part of the entrepreneurial partnership which transformed Harry Ramsden's from a single Yorkshire fish and chip shop to a global franchise, had more general advice on marketing, which he likened to using judo moves. His advice included: get the basics right, use leverage where possible, be fast and be balanced.
"You need to be fit, fast and focused," he said. "For us, we were fit because everyone was well trained, fast in our decision-making, and focused in that we didn't do anything but fish and chips."
Rebecca Stead, Marketing Coordinator at Language Teaching Centres, found a session on marketing and sales particularly useful. "It gave me some interesting ideas to take back to the office and share with my colleagues," she said. Patrick Murphy, director of BLS English, liked the Japanese panel session. "They made some very useful points on attention to detail, the importance of making sure that all your staff know all of the detail and so on." Sarah Tew, of Beet Language Centre in Bournemouth, said: "I've really enjoyed the day and found it very motivating. I've got lots of good ideas, and the atmosphere's been very relaxed." And corporate member Danny Silvester of PPI Business Services said it had been very positive for the exhibitors. "We got some good referrals and new business."
Pamela Baxter, Regional Manager UK and Ireland for event sponsor Cambridge English Language Assessment, said: "Everybody here is really engaged and there is a very positive feel to the day. I am really looking forward to English UK's management conference, and your other events."
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